What is Hanukkah and how is it celebrated?
Hanukkah. Celebrate the miraculous Judean triumph
led by the Maccabee brothers over Assyrian-Greek religious
persecution, ca., 164 BCE. Light the menorah, a
candleholder for nine candles (one added each night, plus
one to light the rest). Play dreidel (spinning
top game) and eat latkes (potatoes pancakes).
story of Hanukkah is a story of a struggle from Assyrian-Greek
religious persecution. Over two thousand years ago, the
foreign rulers of the Israelites decreed that the Jews
must bow down to the image of their leader, Antiochus,
whose statue had been erected in the Jewish Temple. Jews,
however, are forbidden by the law to bow to statues or
idols. A young man named Judah Maccabee and his brothers
assembled a small group of Jews to rebel against their
oppressors. The Maccabees and their followers risked their
lives to prevent the desecration of their sacred Temple
and to live in accordance with Jewish law. Although the
Maccabees won, the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews' holy
place, was destroyed in the battle. The Jews had to clean
and repair the Temple, and when they were finished they
rededicated it to God by rekindling the menorah, the candelabrum
that symbolizes not only the eternal covenant between
God and the Jewish people, but the continuity of tradition
through the generations as well. There was only enough
olive oil to fuel the menorah for one night, and it was
going to take eight days to make more oil. Miraculously,
the one-day supply of oil burned for eight days and nights
until more oil could be made. There are eight days of
Hanukkah corresponding to the legend of the miracle of
the oil in the Temple.
cooked in oil, particularly potato pancakes called latkes,
are traditional Hanukkah fare. Today, candles are used
instead of oil to light menorahs. On each successive night,
while singing the traditional prayers, the number of candles
lit increases by one. Hanukkah is celebrated in the home
beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.
Even though it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures,
Hanukkah is widely celebrated as a major holy day of the
Jewish liturgical calendar. Given its proximity to Christmas,
Hanukkah has taken on importance in the United States
and many other countries where Christmas has been commercialized.
It is traditional to exchange gifts with friends and relatives
on each night of Hanukkah. The party atmosphere is enhanced
with songs, games and toys such as a dreidel - a spinning
top. Hanukkah is a time of joyous celebrations, of family
and friends, and of freedom.
Also See: JOI's
Hanukkah Holiday Page